Updated: May 27
Snorri was the first European known to be born in America at the beginning of the 11th Century. His parents were Þorfinnur karlsefni Þórðarson and Guðríður Þorbjarnardóttir (Thorfinnur and Gudridur). They are my 23rd Great Grandparents and Snorri is my 22nd Great Grandfather. If you are Icelandic, chances are they are your ancestors, too.
Here is a statue of Þorfinnur in Philadelphia and a photo of a statue of Guðríður and Snorri in Glambær.
Their story is written in two sagas – the Saga of Eirík the Red and the Saga of the Greenlanders. It is believed that Þorfinnur set out to sea from the Hofsós area. Þorfinnur and his wife, Guðríður, were the parents of Snorri – the first child of European descent known to have been born in the New World.
In the Sagas, we can read how Guðríður was a wonderful traveler. She walked across Europe two times and traveled the ocean at least eight times. Her first husband was the eldest son of Eirík the Red. Eirík was banished to Greenland as an outlaw. His son, Leif Eiríksson had just discovered the New World. Guðríður’s husband died and she was a healthy young widow. She met the sailor, Þorfinnur, and after they were married, they led an expedition to the New World – Vinland where Snorri was born.
This photo of Guðríður with Snorri standing on her shoulder and both in a boat is a sculpture done by Ásmundur Sveinsson in 1938. There are four statues like this. They are in Laugarbrekka in Snæfellsnes, Glaumbær in Skagafjörður, the Vatican Rome, and Ottawa in Canada.
Guðríður was born at Laugarbrekka. Glaumbær is where Guðríður, Þorfinnur, and their son Snorri lived and farmed after they returned from their stay in America. The third statue is on exhibit at the National Archives in Ottowa, Canada.
The fourth statue is at the Vatican. Guðríður traveled to see the Pope in Rome by walking most of the way. She vowed to the Pope that she would build the first church in her area of Iceland. When she returned from this big adventure, the church was already built by her son. Guðríður lived at the time when Iceland became a Christian nation and she was a leader in this change.
Our ancestors were heroic and influential people and they are featured prominently in the ancient Icelandic sagas. Have you read “The Far Traveler: Voyages of a Viking Woman” by Nancy Marie Brown? This is an excellent book. Nancy also writes a great blog: http://nancymariebrown.blogspot.com/
Today, we have the Snorri Programs to strengthen the bonds between people of Icelandic descent in North America and the people of Iceland. The programs encourage the preservation of our shared culture and heritage and strengthen the ties with Iceland and Icelanders throughout North America and Iceland. I encourage you to check out the various Snorri Programs and choose one that works for you. The Snorri Program is a non-profit organization in cooperation with the Nordic Association, the Icelandic National League of Iceland, and the Icelandic National League of North America.